Acxiom's Nada Stirratt: Data Is in Her Blood

In the coming months, Nada Stirratt will visit clients in Orlando, San Francisco, Brazil and China.

Stirratt has been chief revenue officer for Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock since January. She joined the publicly traded data miner as part of its new wave of executives, all of whom have some experience in big-name tech or Internet companies.

"I've been in the media space since I graduated college in 1987," Stirratt said. She started out in ad sales for A-list magazines including Cosmopolitan and Allure, and then shifted to Moviefone Inc., a company that provided local movie show times and sold tickets. At the time, it was a startup.

"I was there when we were just a phone service," Stirratt said. "That was in 1997, and we ended up launching our website a couple of years after being there. It was very early in the digital space."

Moviefone was sold to AOL for $388 million in 1999, and Stirratt moved to another startup,, which sold online advertising in an era when that market was just starting. AOL also bought - in 2004, for $435 million - and Stirratt moved on to Viacom Inc., where she helped MTV build up a digital practice.

After a few years there, Stirratt and some co-workers moved to MySpace to see if they "could resurrect" the company's music segment. After ad network Specific Media bought MySpace last year for $35 million, Stirratt made the jump to Acxiom. She received a sign-on bonus of $100,000 and about $2 million in stock awards and options, and her annual salary is set at $500,000.

By comparison, President and CEO Scott Howe's salary for the fiscal year that ended March 31 was $600,000 and he was granted stock awards and options of about $5 million. CFO Warren Jenson makes $450,000 in a year, and recently hired Chief Product and Engineering Officer Phil Mui pulls in $425,000.

(For more on executive compensation, see the list here.)

Around the World

Both this job and her previous experiences have sent Stirratt all over the world. Throughout her career she has called New York City her home, and she said that since many of Acxiom's largest clients are in New York, she spends plenty of her time there. Still, she's on the road every week, and spends an average of one week each month in Little Rock at Acxiom's headquarters.

"I lead the global operation for the client-facing side of the business," she said, "field sales, delivery, account management, operation, analytics."

More often than not, Stirratt said, she's somewhere in the country, perhaps overseas, meeting with customers and prospective customers.

"I consider my job first and foremost in client relations," she said.

At Moviefone, Stirratt said, she made frequent trips between New York and Los Angeles, and the same was true for MySpace. But Acxiom is sending her to Brazil and China for the first time in her life. 

Rings of Data

The position of chief revenue officer was created for Stirratt, and her experience with digital media seems to make her a good fit for Acxiom, which is making forays into digital space.

"I love the idea of taking a complex problem and making it very simple for a customer to want to buy it," she said. "In the early days of ad networks, people didn't really know what that was."

The idea of a business in a changing phase isn't foreign to Stirratt. When she worked at Moviefone, the company was entirely phone-based, but it was changing to an online model. Customers called a special number to receive information about local show times. Stirratt said it had a huge portion of the market share in places like Los Angeles, which necessitated her frequent travel there.

"People automatically went to Moviefone in those days," she said.

Moviegoers would visit the company site for film information, so Stirratt had to find ad clients that would consider moviegoers as both audience and demographic.

"I had to figure out how to package it and how to take it to market," she said. "That was very exciting, and it became more exciting when we started selling ads on the website."

Stirratt described her elation when she sold her very first banner ad at Moviefone, for Dunkin' Donuts.

"It was a tiny little deal, but it was my biggest moment of pride when we actually got that ad banner launched," she said. "When you entered in your ZIP code to see where your show times were, if the new Dunkin' Donuts Coolatta was available in your area, it would pop that ad up. This was in, like, 1998."

Stirratt said this experience put "data in my blood."

"Data is everywhere," she said. "It's the analytics and modeling that sits on top of big data."

That analytic side is where Acxiom comes in, and Stirratt said the company works through the "rings and rings and rings" of data to make sense of it, and she has to help customers understand exactly what that means to them.

"That's where it gets interesting," she said. "That's the part which is quite hard."

Stirratt lauded Acxiom's "relentless focus" on its clients, and its deep relationship with those clients, some of which have been with Acxiom for decades.

"If you think about what's core to Acxiom, it's providing data for marketers and providing data for their customers," she said. "If you think of that as the core of what we do, more customers are digital right now. So what we have to do is get clients to the best place to reach their customers. Whether that's offline, or online, we can do both. I think we're at a seminal time for data. Marketers are using data to drive their businesses, I would argue, like never before."